Tuesday 5 July 2016

Reviewed: The Judge's Wife by Ann O'Loughlin

TITLE: The Judge's Wife
AUTHOR: Ann O'Loughlin
PUBLISHER: Black and White Publishing


Amazon - Goodreads

When Emma returns to Dublin to put her estranged father's affairs in order, she begins to piece together the story of his life and that of Grace, the mother she never knew. She knows her father as the judge as stern and distant at home as he was in the courtroom. But as she goes through his personal effects, Emma begins to find clues about her mother that shock her profoundly.

A tale of enduring love and scandal that begins in 1950s Dublin and unravels across decades and continents, digging up long-buried family secrets along the way, The Judge's Wife asks whether love really can last forever.

Last year I read Ann O’Loughlin’s debut, The Ballroom Café, and I was surprised by how much I loved that novel. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book, The Judge’s Wife, and I really enjoyed that one just as much. Ann’s writing is honestly a joy to read. I love how evocative each sentence is, each providing something meaningful or beautiful description without getting bogged down in detail – I was completely swept up in the storytelling. On style alone, Ann has become one of my favourite authors to read because I become completely lost in her stories and find it so difficult leaving them behind.

Similar to The Ballroom Café, I found The Judges Wife a bit of a slow-starter as I was trying to work out the various characters and the connections between them all. We begin by meeting Grace, the judge’s wife, in 1954, who just days after giving birth is sent to Our Lady’s Asylum. In 1984, we meet Emma, who returns to clear through the things of the judge, Martin, who has passed away, meaning now both her parents have died. The narrative then switches from Ireland to India, where we meet Vikram, a man who is determined to stand by Grace’s grave to pay his respects as she was the only woman he ever truly loved. He wants to take his niece Rosa with him, despite her mum’s protests. There was a lot to take in with the characters at first, but I soon settled into the story and from then on, I did not put the book down until I’d reached the end.

I don’t think I could pick a favourite from the main characters because I liked reading their individual stories equally, and especially enjoyed the ties that linked them together. The emotional narrative drew me in so I was completely invested in the lives of the characters. The Judge’s Wife switched quite effortlessly between the mystery and intrigue of Emma and Rosa’s parts to the gruelling nature of Grace’s time in the Asylum.

Ann’s description of Grace’s life was done honestly and representative of something very real in those times. I found myself both shuddering at how harsh and unjust the Asylum sounded to finding sympathy for Grace who came across as an innocent women unfairly treated. Each day in Grace’s life brought something horrific but I found her to be a strong character, brave despite her fears, and I really liked getting to know her as a character because she was a rare and memorable character, one I don’t think I’ve read similar to in any other book. One of my particular favourite parts about her character was her style and fashion, and the description and detail brought to her Sybil Connolly clothing meant I could really envisage what Grace looked like along with her emotions and story.

Emma and Rosa’s pieces of the story bring up many secrets and hidden truths and each thing uncovered had me more and more engrossed in the book. Some bits I did predict but that took absolutely nothing away from how much I loved this book, and there were many things I wasn’t expecting too! To talk further about it would be to spoil the beauty of this book but I can wholeheartedly recommend reading this book for yourself. Powerful with its emotion and captivating with its storytelling, The Judge’s Wife is a book that breaks your heart from the start and has you scrambling to put the pieces back together before the end, as these characters so deserved the break.

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